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what if a child's foreskin used to retract?

March 7 2008 at 4:12 PM
Leah  (Login leahmom)

I have an 8 year old son whose foreskin retracted at an early age (around 3, when he loved playing with his penis!) I just recently realized that it no longer retracts at all and my son complained of mild discomfort "from getting kicked there". No redness, swelling or urinary difficulties that would worry me. I'm wondering if this could naturally develop from less manipulation or if there is a problem (and if so, what to do as I know noone in this area who wouldn't say "circumcise"!)

(Premier Login jimsplacetofixthings)

Not a problem

March 8 2008, 6:19 PM 

Eight year old boys have no reason for retracting their foreskins, so I wouldn't worry about it. At three, he was probably in a minority to have been able to retract. Why it would no longer be retractile is debatable, but it could very well be the lack of manipulation. Whatever the reason, if ther is no trauma, I don't suspect any problem.

When he approaches puberty, this situation may resolve on its own, or he may need to intervene with some exercises. It should be totally his situation with which to deal. At this time, I would suggest not making a big deal of it. Boys are highly impressionable at his age, and he could easily develop a fixation problem which would later lead him to an unnatural fascination with circumcision. Evidence abounds of just such men who never find ways to outgrow their disturbances. Some have mulitple circumcisions in attempts at finding resolution, but it doesn't happen.

Paul B.
(Login Paul_B.)


March 9 2008, 3:01 PM 

Hmmm, perhaps you might clarify whether you only actually looked into this matter when he was injured. You want to let any bruising from that trauma settle before considering the matter of retraction.

It is quite plausible that he has simply forgotten to play with retraction and the foreskin has "forgotten" to grow as a result. What I would generally say, was that you should have taught him to retract as a part of peeing when he could do so, and he would have happily kept up the habit.

The matter of the age at which a boy can retract (fully) is as you have realised, quite a contentious one as misunderstandings (or outright lies) have been the basis on the one hand for recommendations for circumcision and on the other, people virtually panicking about the thought of a foreskin being retracted before it is "ready".

The truth as usual, is far broader. If he could retract at three, that's absolutely fine and should be encouraged - in a manner which suggested to him that he should do it regularly; thus whenever peeing, not just bathing. In fact, retracting in soapy bathwater is a bad idea; showers are better.

On the other hand, if he could not retract at age ten, that's no reason to panic either and we believe looking at the facts that the suggestion to circumcise at any age is medical malpractice. As one of my "older and wiser" surgical mentors pointed out to me some years ago, if it hasn't retracted at ten, it just as likely will when he enters puberty, which may be as late as 14 or even 16. And one young fellow about whom we were worried at age four or five (particularly as his younger brother retracted easily) and tried the standard treatment, is apparently quite retractable since puberty (which came to notice when he suffered a quite bad injury in the region).

So it is probably OK. I'd be looking at it from two viewpoints (and would be pleased to hear how you proceed with this): It's not a critical problem because it probably will sort itself out in time. However I think it would be a good idea to move matters toward having him retract it routinely. I would suggest you ensure he knows that it is supposed to retract and that he should perhaps remember that he used to be able to at the earlier age.

When any tenderness has resolved, you could see if he can retract it for you and at that point you can explain that when he retracts it, he must always put it back afterward and if he has any difficulty doing so, to report it immediately (as you may need to do it for him with a little determination; but this point should not be over-dramatised). You might then go on from there to encourage him to retract it routinely and see if he can pee with it retracted. If that is too difficult, explain that if he retracts it frequently anyway, he will loosen it so that he can pee retracted.

If he happens to ask for a reason you could suggest he might be able to "point" it more accurately that way, though this is not conclusively true. In fact, if the foreskin is loosened enough to retract, it tends to become more accurate to pee retracted because the foreskin no longer "focuses" the stream as effectively.

It is not really necessary to put forward cleaning as a reason for retraction (any more than it might be for a girl).

If you know he could retract fully at the age of three, then there should be no issue of "adhesions" restricting retraction now, and it should not be painful. If you suspected adhesions, you can get him to do the "balloon trick" to evaluate.

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